Quick, where was the last NHL Winter Classic?
Nope, the Flyers-Bruins and Avalanche-Golden Knights games this past winter weren’t Winter Classics. They were “NHL Outdoors” at Lake Tahoe.
The Avalanche-Kings game at the Air Force Academy? That was the NHL “Stadium Series.”
You need to go back five outdoor games to get to the last Winter Classic, the Predators and Stars at the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day 2020, a game most memorable for Corey Perry’s post-ejection walk of shame.
You probably didn’t see it live. Only 1.96 million Americans watched that last Winter Classic on NBC, down from a peak of 4.5 million in 2011 for Capitals-Flyers at Heinz Field, a game that drew from the hype of HBO’s excellent 24/7 series in the weeks leading up to it.
The first Winter Classic drew 3.75 million viewers on New Year’s Day in 2008, as viewers saw a may-as-well-have-been-scripted finish with Sidney Crosby scoring the winning shootout goal as snow flurries fluttered about in Buffalo.
At the Field of Dreams game between the Yankees and White Sox on Thursday, MLB’s biggest regular-season audience in 16 years — 5.9 million viewers in time-zone-adjusted numbers, according to Deadline.com — saw a may-as-well-have-been-scripted finish of Tim Anderson smashing a walkoff homer into the Iowa corn, and that following homers by Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the top of the ninth.
So, the question now is whether Major League Baseball can avoid the NHL’s mistake and avoid the diminishing returns that come with too much of a good thing. The history of interleague play and expanded playoffs suggest… no.
In that case, a word of advice. The NHL’s mistakes with outdoor games weren’t just about playing too many, but allowing them to become generic. The first one in Buffalo had obvious novelty, then they went to Wrigley Field and Fenway Park before getting to Pittsburgh and the biggest superstar rivalry in the sport, Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, in 2011.
Nationals Park? Busch Stadium? Who cares? There was a bit of a bump for Boston-Chicago at Notre Dame in 2019, but the Cotton Bowl isn’t exactly iconic. An event like this is about capturing the audience’s imagination.
A Bull Durham-themed game is a neat, fun idea, and maybe should happen. Durham Athletic Park has been renovated since Kevin Costner’s best baseball movie, but it’s still the same field. A game there could be a great showcase for the Rays, so many of whose players have been through Durham in Triple-A, and you could match them up easily with the Red Sox or an interleague game with Atlanta.
Beyond that, though, an MLB Cinema Series isn’t where this needs to go. Maybe it’s finding a way to join the fun of Alaska’s Midnight Sun Game, or maybe finding some space along the St. Mary’s River in Fort Wayne, where the crooked river was the cradle of Major League Baseball itself, with the first National Association game played at what is now Camp Allen Park (there’s more space across the river at Swinney Park… or, y’know, a minor league park about a dozen city blocks away).
Nobody knew that the ninth inning would unfold the way it did on Thursday night, only that they’d be tuning in for a spectacle. That’s what MLB needs to deliver, and why those Tahoe games in the NHL were so much more memorable than many of the Winter Classics.
Or, to put it in a Field of Dreams way, it isn’t “if you build it, he will come,” but “go the distance.”
Some dingdong in Queens decided to use a green laser pointer to try to get Max Muncy hurt in the ninth inning of the Mets-Dodgers game.
It should go without saying, don’t do this.
But so long as you don’t have something as nefarious as a backpack, security isn’t going to stop you from bringing it into the Mets’ stadium, so it’s really kind of an honor system thing.
The NHL is really going to have a carveout in its vaccination policy for valet parking attendants?
The NHL is really going to have a team go through an outbreak this season because T.J. Oshie can’t self-park?
Simply the most possible “What are you gonna do, stab me?” energy… except for the part about refusing to get stabbed by a COVID vaccine needle.
Derrius Guice, a free agent, is suspended for six games for alleged domestic violence incidents that led to his arrest in Virginia, and his release from the Football Team last year.
Deshaun Watson, a superstar, returned to practice this week as a grand jury investigation was launched against him and Sports Illustrated reported that the NFL’s own investigation has included such nonsense as asking the quarterback’s alleged victims what they were wearing.
It’s not surprising. Just disappointing.